Moroccan artist Taj or Oopsjlfagain as he is known on his socials, creates art to bridge the gap between reality and fantasy. His Moroccan roots, namely in Casablanca, are a strong source of pride and inspiration for his art – emulating that joy and North African identity in his work. Taj uses digital manipulation, aluminium prints and glitter for his masterpieces to truly reflect the feelings of courage, strength and joy he conveys. We connected with Taj on FRONTRUNNER’s social forum to learn more about his story.
Where are you from?
Born and raised in Casablanca, one of the largest African metropolis, and also known as the city that inspired Michael Curtiz’s film Casablanca.
Casablanca is a city full of contrasts, where rich and poor live in two different worlds but share the same culture and taboos.
Casablanca like Morocco is a city that has been cradled by the mix of Arab Muslim, Jewish, European and African cultures. This multiculturalism has allowed me to be more open to the world.
When did you start your art practice?
I have always loved art. I still keep my childhood drawings where I drew women. I always perceived women as perfect works of art. Strong, elegant and beautiful. Extraordinary human beings.
As I grew up I put aside my love for art and focused on my studies, I never believed that I could make a career out of it, thinking that only a certain elite could have access to it.
In 2016 I started making collages with Snapchat, I was trying to create imaginary situations to have fun and unleash the creativity in me. My friends liked the concept very much, one of friend encouraged me to create a dedicated Instargram account so that I wouldn’t lose my creations. From there was born the concept @oopsJLFAgain (Oops je l’ai fait again) which is a translation of Britney Spears song (Oops I did it again). And that was the trigger for me, I took so much pleasure in it that it was clear for me ”art is my life”.
How do you describe your vision for your work?
My work represents life with its good and bad sides. This translates into a physical and visual aspect where the glitter represents joy, exploration and open-mindedness and the distortion represents the spleen of a whole generation. It is also for me a call to magic between reality and dream, my art is a tool to magnify the masculine as well as the feminine. I like to show through my art the vulnerability of men by showing their weakness and vulnerability and glorify women by showing their courage, strength and audacity.
How has your work evolved over time?
My work is a part of me, it changes and grows with me. It’s quite normal that my emotions are reflected in it, and with time I became more confident and I tried not to limit myself to a single support and technique, I found pleasure in testing new things and experimenting.
What are your artistic/creative inspirations?
My city, the beautiful Casablanca and its people are an eternal source of inspiration and I am also very attached to mainstream culture and the world of fashion.
The African art scene and what it brings as a new breath of creativity is also an incredible source of inspiration for me.
Tell me about your process.
It always starts with a scene that I have seen in reality and instantly in my mind an image manifests itself, and I try to translate the emotion it gives me into a painting. As soon as I can I log in to look for the images I need, I create like a kind of moodboard and I start my work, when I finish my creation on photoshop I print it on aluminium plates, then I apply a twist and at the end I add a last touch of magic with glitter that will accentuate specific elements.
Do you think your work has a message? How is it received?
Each of my paintings has a specific message, but I prefer to keep its meaning for myself, it always amuses me to see how the viewers appropriate the painting and understand it in their own way.
I think this is also the true beauty of art, there is not just one explanation and message, there are thousands of them, and all make sense, which makes the artwork last forever.
What is safe and/or dangerous in terms of experimentation?
Experimentation is liberating, it allows you to discover new fields and playgrounds, creativity is like the universe, it has no limits. You just have to be careful not to get lost in it and lose your artistic flame (fire).
What’s next for you? What are some goals for your artistic career you hope to accomplish?
My next project is a declaration of love to Moroccan multiculturalism, through a series of portraits, each one represents a side of Morocco with all its contradictions. The exhibition will take place at ArSpace Casablanca directed by the talented Amine Amharech who has always supported me and helped me challenge my ideas. And one of my artistic goals is to collaborate with the artist Amir H. Fallah, whom I find very talented and inspiring.
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FRONTRUNNER social forum: @taj